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XXXIV. On the Dialects of the Arabic Language, by the late Professor 
Carltle. Communicated by William Marsdex, Esq., M.R.A.S., in the 
following Letter to the Secretary. 

Read March 3, 1827. 

February 27, 1827. 

"When that accomplished Oriental scholar, the late Professor Carlyle, 

was proceeding on his travels to the Levant, I suggested some inquiries 

respecting the differences he might have opportunities of remarking amongst 

the spoken dialects of the Arabic language ; and as his answer contains some 

curious information on the subject, I have thought it not unworthy of 

beinj? communicated to the Roval Asiatic Society. 

" Buyukdere, near Constantinople, September 10, 1801. 

" My dear Sir : 

" Accept my best thanks for your very kind letter, which I did not 
receive until my return to Constantinople from my tour in Egypt, Syria, 
and Asia Minor. I did myself the honour of writing to Lady S. from 
Jaffa, just before I performed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, at which place I 
spent a fortnight most interestingly. As I had seen the interior part of 
Asia Minor in going, I wished to return by the coast, for which purpose I 
embarked on board a Greek vessel at Jaffa, and occasionally touched at the 
different islands of the Archipelago, as well as at several places of the 
continent, which I judged would be best worth visiting ; and I need scarcely 
say that I had a most interesting voyage. 

" During my tour I had much opportunity of comparing the different 
Arabian dialects. My own instructor, and the families with whom I speak 
and read Arabic here, are from Aleppo. I passed six weeks (at Cyprus 
and on board the Tigre) in company with the prince of the mountains and 
fifteen of his attendants from different parts of the east as well as Africa. 
"We had on board, at the same time, persons from Cairo ; and in my 
journey through Palestine, I had sufficient opportunities of remarking the 
dialects of that country. The discrepancies found to exist in some dialects 

Professor Cjsltze on the Dialects of the Arabic Language. 581 

of Arabic, may undoubtedly be referred in some degree to the different 
mode of pronouncing several of the letters — a difference more considerable, 
I believe, than in any other language. Thus, while a native of Baghdad 
can discriminate completely between the j dal, the j dzal, the ^j, dhad, and 
the k dim, the Aleppine makes little distinction between the sound of the 
j dzal, the fe dha, and the : za, while he pronounces ^j, dhad, like a o dal. 
On the other hand, the Syrian gives the sound of the j dal to all these 
letters. Again, ■.• in the mouth of an inhabitant of Baghdad, is a guttural 
k, but at Aleppo it is formed by a previous click with the tongue.* - 
with an Egyptian, is generally hard as g in go. cS, in some parts of Syria, 
is sounded like our sh ; thus t^i-o is pronounced as if it were ^JUj*. 
The sound of the c ain, as affected with vowels, is only discriminated, as 
far as I have observed, by the Aleppines, and with them its several 
sounds, when united to the hesra, dliamma, and fatha, can only be con- 
veved to the ear. "When joined to the first it is not indeed very different 
from the sound of the French cei in their word ceil. Thus, in the word 
which you adduce, i^, the Aleppines pronounce as if it were cciddat, but 
rather more in the throat. The discrepancies, however, amongst the 
Arabian dialects, I apprehend to be chiefly occasioned by two other causes : 
the first, an admixture of different foreign idioms, and the second an adop- 
tion of different synonymes to express the same idea, by the different nations 
amongst whom this far-spreading language is spoken. Thus, from the first 
of these causes, we must expect to find a considerable number of Turkish 
words in the dialect of Aleppo ; of Persian in that of Baghdad ; and 
perhaps of Malayan in that of the Arabic which prevails in the vicinity of 
the Indian ocean. From the second of these causes it happens (to take an 
instance) that a horse is expressed in Egypt by the word U L-^ , and in 
Asia by J-i- ; both of which terms are pure Arabic ; both of them 
expressing a species of horse. Now as the J^i. was probably more common 
in Asia, and the J^>- in Egypt, each of these terms lost, in the mouths of 
the vulgar, its specific acceptation, and assumed a generic one ; and thus it 
is with various other words, which at the first view appear totally dissimilar, 

* It would seem that in some parts of Africa, occupied by Arab tribes, the - has 
the sound of g, as in the names of aLsJO, Dongola ; jLL, Shigre ; sj&j Wangarah, and 
others — W. M. 

582 Professor Caiilyle on the Dialects of the Arabic Language. 

and which in fact are so to those who are only acquainted with the verna- 
cular Arabic. If therefore we make allowance for these three causes : 
pronunciation, admixture, and synonymes, I apprehend there will be found 
little real difference amongst the dialects of Arabic ; none of which, I will 
venture to assert (whatever Niebuhr and others may have thought), varies 
materially from the language of the Koran. As you have led me into this 
philological discussion, I make no apologies for it." 

The untimely death of the Professor, in the year 1804, at the age of 
forty-five, when he was engaged in editing the Arabic version of the Bible, 
with the types newly designed by Mr. Wilkins, and executed under his 
superintendence, was a severe, though, we may hope, not an irreparable 
loss, to the interests of Asiatic literature in this country. 

I am, Sir, 

Your most obedient Servant, 

(Signed) WM. MARSDEN. 

To the Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society.